Jun Wang, Ph.D., CEO of iCarbonX, a China-based artificial intelligence (AI) start-up, has announced the launch of a new digital life alliance that will aim to improve health and wellness on a grand scale.
The alliance of seven omics, AI, and bio companies will work together as an “ecosystem,” Wang announced January 5 at the Digital Health Summit. iCarbonX, launched in 2015, plans to back the alliance with $400 million in venture capital, to drive wellness research and the advancement of digital technology to guide individuals toward staying well.
The companies to form the alliance include:
• SomaLogic, a provider of proteomics technology to transform life sciences research and medicine;
• HealthTell, a provider of ImmunoSignature technology;
• PatientsLikeMe, the world’s largest personalized health network;
• AOBiome, developer of a probiotic-based therapy designed to restore ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) to the human microbiome;
• GALT (General Automation Lab Technologies), a developer of high-throughput microbial detection and isolation products;
• Imagu, designer of a digitalized human model to understand, predict and infer information about an individual’s health; and
• Robustnique Corp. Ltd., a technology-driven company committed to developing recombinant enzymes and high-end cosmetics.
Dr. Wang said the alliance’s ultimate goal is to detect “meaningful signals” about health, disease and aging. “We can only reach this audacious goal if we successfully integrate traditionally separate fields of expertise into one collaborative ecosystem,” he said.
“Today we know a great deal about how genes impact our health,” Dr. Wang said. “But for that knowledge to be useful, we need to know how disease and aging manifest in the body over time, and how our everyday choices affect their progression.”
Dr. Wang said the new ecosystem “will be capable of connecting the biology and experience of individuals, and of creating useful, predictive algorithms to illuminate personal susceptibilities, differences in body functions and variations in treatment responses.”
Alliance members welcomed the opportunity and expressed eagerness and excitement to work with each other under Dr. Wang’s leadership.
Larry Gold, founder and chairman of the board for SomaLogic called Wang “remarkable,” and “a visionary, on the Steve Jobs-level.”
Bill Colston, CEO of HealthTell said he expects Wang will use his influence in China to raise “billions of dollars” more over the next 10 years—catapulting the alliance’s efforts, while creating economies of scale to aid research.
Both Coltson and Gold said Dr. Wang “understands the realities” of the kind of work he is undertaking. Their praise doesn’t come unfounded. According to iCarbonX, Dr. Wang earned a B.S. in artificial intelligence and Ph.D. in bioinformatics from Peking University. In 1999, he co-founded BGI, known as the Beijing Genomics Institute prior to 2008—a world-class genome sequencing center, in Shenzhen, China. While at BGI, Dr. Wang managed three rounds of fund-raising amounting to $1 billion.
PatientsLikeMe, a patient network launched more than a decade ago with half a million members, is in line to receive $100 million from the iCarbonX alliance. Ben Heywood, co-founder and president of PatientsLikeMe, said the new alliance is important “because we believe people need actionable data earlier, so they know what to do to reduce or eliminate the risks of developing a condition or to more effectively manage and live better with a condition.”
“Right now, we know a lot about what we’re born with—that’s genetics—and how diseases can end lives,” Heywood said. “What we don’t know enough about is what happens in between: how diseases manifest in the body over time, and how our everyday actions affect what and how fast something develops.”
Next steps for the alliance are as yet undetermined, Gold said, but the companies forming the alliance have had “a large number of discussions over the last year.” Colston said the companies in the alliance have similar business plans and are making plans to partner on various research. There are specific goals planned for the alliance overall, which are likely to be publicly announced, he said.
“There’s an ultimate vision, and Jun has that in his head,” Colston said. Of the research, he said, “there’s a heck of a lot we’re going to learn along the way.”
Peter Christey, CEO of General Automation Lab Technologies (GALT), said the alliance will help its members to leverage their combined capabilities to achieve higher goals than they could achieve alone.
To see more articles from the January/February issue of Cliniclal OMICs click here.